North

'A special feeling': Yellowknife's Muslim community allowed to hold Eid-al-Adha gathering

Yellowknife’s Muslim community has more than one thing to celebrate on Friday, as it marks Eid al-Adha. Up to 125 people are allowed to take part in the Muslim holiday face-to-face — although, while still practising physical distancing.

Earlier this year, pandemic forced people to mark Ramadan with drive-thru celebration

Eid al-Adha in Yellowknife. Up to 125 people are allowed to gather for the Muslim holiday in Yellowknife this year — while abiding by pandemic protocols. (Michaela Crook/CBC)

Yellowknife's Muslim community has more than one thing to celebrate on Friday, as it marks Eid al-Adha.

Up to 125 people are allowed to take part in the Muslim holiday face-to-face — although, while still practising physical distancing amid COVID-19 restrictions.

Public health granted the group special permission to mark the celebration with a larger gathering of people, said Nazim Awan, chair of the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife.

"[It is] a very happy feeling that we are again able to see each other and feel the same spirit," said Awan, adding that things are starting to feel a bit more "back to normal."

Eid al-Adha is a major holiday observed by Muslims around the world.

The festival honours the sacrifice that the prophet Ibrahim was prepared to make when God asked him to give up his son. In the end, Muslims believe, God allowed Ibrahim to sacrifice an animal instead.

All of the festivities of Eid al-Adha are linked to Ibrahim's actions, Awan explained. He said members of the community distribute meat to family, friends, and community groups such as the food bank and women's shelter — whether the recipients are Muslim or not.

Nazim Awan is the chair of the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

Normally, Eid al-Adha is a social time when families share all kinds of food. But this year, with COVID-19 restrictions, things are slightly different. 

"This time, we cannot share food, so we will have a barbecue," said Awan. "Volunteers will cook and then serve to guests."

The event will still be marked by prayers, and involve goodie bags for the children. Volunteers will also do henna art, he said.

However, because of COVID-19, people won't be able to visit friends' homes to give gifts, as is sometimes done, Awan said. 

Eid-al-Adha celebrations in Yellowknife. Things look a little different this year because of the pandemic. (Michaela Crook/CBC)

Ramadan marked by drive-thru festivities

The pandemic also forced members of Yellowknife's Muslim community to get creative in May, when they marked the end of Ramadan.

Instead of the usual festivities, they held a drive-thru celebration. At the time, volunteers in masks and gloves handed out bags of treats and toys to children passing by in vehicles with their families.

Still, the pandemic won't detract from what truly makes the day so meaningful.

"When you go to Eid prayer, it is a special feeling you feel," Awan said. 

"We cannot hug each other. But even then, when you see each other from a distance and you have a feeling of love and respect for each other, that feeling is most important."

Eid-al-Adha in Yellowknife in July 2020. Eid al-Adha is a major holiday observed by Muslims around the world. (Michaela Crook/CBC)

Written by Kirsten Fenn, with files from Alyssa Mosher, Michaela Crook

now